Inquiries into the early years of SJI

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Let her go, God bless her - dated 1909

I've had a number of conversations in the past about those lines from St. James Infirmary, "Let her go, let her go God bless her . . ." and so on. They combine with the rest of the song to tell a very strange story. Where did these words come from, at what point did they enter the song? Were they original sentiments, placed there deliberately, or imported from elsewhere as the song evolved?

John Garst is an organic chemist and amateur folklorist, professor emeritus at the University of Georgia. He has recently (and very generously) sent me information about several songs that we shall discuss in upcoming posts, but I wanted to share this lyric as soon as I could.

John tells me that this song, "She's Gone, Let Her Go" comes from the Song Book of the Harvard Club of San Francisco, dated 1909. I'm not sure we could find a more Caucasian collection of people. There is no music, but here are the lyrics:

SHE'S GONE, LET HER GO

They say true love is a blessing,
But the blessing I never could see,
For the only girl I ever loved
Has done gone back on me.

Chorus.

She's gone, let her go, God bless her,
For she's mine wherever she may be,
You may roam this wide world all over,
But you'll never find a friend like me.

There may be a change in the weather,
There may be a change in the sea,
There may be a change all over,
But there'll never be a change in me.

It's easy to think of this as the likely inspiration for the song discussed in the entry below.